OnePlus Could Mean an End to the American Smart Phone Market as We Know It

OnePlus Could Mean an End to the American Smart Phone Market as We Know It

When OnePlus showed up on the scene a year and a half ago, they came up with their “Never Settle” slogan. Shortly thereafter, people began settling on their products.

At the time, the OnePlus One meant an end to carrier dominance in the United States. For the first time, you could grab a flagship phone with the flagshipiest of flagship specs for just $349 ($299 for the 16 GB model, which is very rare and invitations were few and far between). Sure, there were some marketing disasters but that only gave them more publicity.

Their infamous invite system was a strike of pure genius. After all, when you have to work to get a phone, it’s something that you’re going to tell your friends about and be enthusiastic about. It was ingenious for creating word of mouth advertising.

Then it all went wrong.

We all thought that OnePlus was going to change the smart phone market for the better. As it turns out, they just might change it for the worse.

It started with the big lie. I’ll admit, I believed it. OnePlus was very successful in convincing us that $350 was all that anyone should charge for a flagship. Samsung, Apple, HTC, LG, Sony, and all of the other OEMs are the big, evil corporations that only care about pulling the money out of your wallet. OnePlus is the superhero that is going to save you from those companies, as well as the carriers because they just want to give you a great phone at a great price.

OnePlus did a really great job convincing users that Apple, Samsung, HTC, and LG are there to hurt you while OnePlus is there to help you, that OnePlus is the good guy in a world of bad guys.

It wasn’t true. The phone was buggy, teaching users the very hard lesson that great specs don’t necessarily make a great phone. But they’re a startup, right? The first generation model is bound to have a few flaws.

But what happens if you have one of these flaws? Well, you have to contact customer service. There is no phone number to call. There is no live chat. There is only a web form you can fill out where OnePlus will get back to you in about two weeks.

Once they finally get back to you, you exchange emails about once a day. Often, those emails are redundant, asking you a question that they’ve already asked you.

I posted the transcript from my RMA with OnePlus customer support. I can tell you that from the feedback I received that this was not unique to me. After I proved my case, they ignored me. Well, they ignored me until I posted the transcript from my RMA.

So let’s look at how they make that $350 price tag on a phone where other companies have to sell it for $600. They have no customer service staff, no technical support, and they don’t replace defective units.

So Let’s Get to the Point, huh?

OK, OK. I’ll get to the point. I have seen this strategy from Chinese companies quite a few times before. They provide a phone with great specs for a really low price and the warranty covers almost nothing. For the things that the warranty does cover, it’s almost impossible to get it replaced.

There will always be that foolish percentage of the population that thinks that great specs equal a great phone. There’s always going to be people that think they know everything about a phone because they looked at the spec sheet and read a review with some benchmarks.

These are the same people that don’t know anything about specs. They’re the ones that think the quad core 2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801 is better than the 1.4 GHz dual core A8 because they only know how to count cores and GHz. They’re the ones that think 1440p is better than 1080p because the Galaxy S6’s and Note 4’s displays look so great, since they don’t know anything about color accuracy and white balance. They’re the ones that think that a smart phone camera can be judged by the specs, even if they’re not only going on megapixels.

I see it all the time. When OnePlus announced that the OnePlus 2 would be powered by a Snapdragon 810, commenters asked why they didn’t use a Snapdragon 820. It’s like they want another processor to be released too early to where it’s flawed.

But people, mainly Android fans, can’t help it. They want specs. They want a 2K display, which has one advantage (VR) and a plethora of disadvantages. They want a 20 MP camera. They want a 5,000 mAh battery. One more thing, they want it all for dirt cheap.

This Strategy Could Come to America

It’s not out of the question that this strategy might come to the United States. Generally, it relies on whether OnePlus succeeds or fails. Personally, I think they’ll succeed since every time I talk to another spec-whore I lose a little bit of faith in the intelligence of smart phone consumers.

It’s the ultimate battle between intelligence and stupidity. If the general smart phone consuming populace is intelligent, OnePlus will fail. If not, OnePlus will succeed.

If they do succeed, that means that they’re a credible threat to the American model. That’s great, in a way. It means that we no longer will be controlled by carriers. They won’t be able to charge the ridiculous prices that they charge for phones.

On the other hand, it would mean that Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony, and Motorola would all have to drop their prices. This means that they’d have to make cuts. This means that you can expect a serious drop in support.

We live in a place where, if our phone breaks, we expect to be able to bring it into the Apple Store, where they either fix it or replace it. The same goes for any Android phone and a Best Buy.

There are a lot of variables here, a lot of ifs and maybes; however, a worst case scenario is entirely possible. All we can do is make sure we’re smart consumers.

About the author
Rich Woods

Being a computer programmer wasn't enough to fulfill his love of technology. In 2013, Rich founded For the Love of Tech and has been writing about his love of tech ever since.

  • loong

    i wonder where you smoke your weed, the OPO is every bit as enticing to a tech geek (who knows specs are only half the story) as to a spec-whore. yes, they have some buggy products but who doesn’t, especially considering they are a new startup. Mine was fine all the way, and after more than a year, it is still as lightning fast as if it was brand new (cant say that for any Samsung device).

    The real value i see in this phone, is the software, and at that price. When they lost CM, i thought they wouldnt be able to survive, but they managed to turn things around quickly by assembling their own team. and it’s still gonna be stock android (none of that OEM skinning crap)

    wont comment on customer support, since i’ve never needed to use it. but at that price, can you really complain?

    to compare One Plus in their first year of operation to other established OEMs, is like comparing a child to an adult. Nuff said.

    • You absolutely can complain, even at that price. The fact that they don’t replace defective models is absurd. Read the transcript of my bout with customer support.

  • sold my nexus 5 to get a one+1, and I don’t regret it, for me its an amazing device.

    if it breaks I will let you know and admit defeat, in the meantime I will enjoy my dirty cheap amazing phone.

    • I’m not sure why it breaking would be admitting defeat. A lot of people are missing the point here. It’s not a commentary on OnePlus. It’s a commentary on how bad smart phones will be if Samsung, LG, HTC, and all of the other Android and Windows Phone OEMs adopted OnePlus’s model. It’s like everyone has to rush to the fanboy defense and defend OnePlus. That’s not what this is about.

  • Yes you could take your apple or samsung device in to be fixed, best case they would fix or replace it for free, in a lot of cases it would cost 100’s for the repair and worst case you just have to buy a new phone. The cost of a new flagship Samsung or apple phone is 3 times that of the OPO!! Even it my One did break and I didn’t ever get though to them I could buy 2 more before reaching the expense of a new iPhone 6 for example. I do understand your point, but ill take my chances with my One. Ive already got a full years use out of mine and like the vast majority of others its still as lightning fast as day one. I’d buy another in a heartbeat.

    • OK, first of all, I’m not trying to talk about OnePlus here. I’m trying to talk about what happens if other companies become like OnePlus.

      A repair from Apple or Samsung may cost hundreds of dollars, yes; however, if you get a replacement plan with the phone, it doesn’t cost anything. Also, if it’s a manufacturing defect, it’s covered under the warranty. With OnePlus, there is no replacement plan. They don’t honor the warranty. That’s how they manage to sell that phone for that price.

      They also have phone number, live chat, etc.

  • You sir, are a very big pretentious asshole. You want to know why other OEMs charge more? And how OnePlus managed to make it cheap? Marketing and advertisement. That’s right. That is the only thing that’ll change. Applehole and Samsung will cut costs (billion dollars each per year) on advertising and follow OnePlus on that that front. Do you know how huge a Billion Dollars is? It is huge. Besides, the customer care and service is improving, got can always call your local service center, the guys at OnePlus are very active and responsive, and they have a big plan to dramatically improve on this front with the two. Besides, they are a small company, spending less on marketing and less on ads and were low on manpower. This is reason for bad service in the past more than the budget of the phone. You are honestly high on some weird drug and are having bad dreams.

    • First of all, Samsung spends about five times as much on marketing as Apple, or any other company for that matter. I’d sit here and try to have an intelligent discussion with you, but I can see that it’s pointless.

      • DomYteNique

        Why do you wrote this article then? If we are toi pointless for you, you may think to change what you actually doing…

  • Yes I do see that customer service is of course important. And OnePlus do need to up their game on that front. But my comment about the phone costing a 3rd of the price still stands. For better or for worse the benefits of saving all that money far outweighs the downside of if it does go wrong I won’t get live chat. I think there is a middle ground to be found here, but in my own opinion OnePlus are a lot closer to it.

    • OK, I see where you’re coming from and you’re right, to a degree. First of all, let’s say half, not a third. $349. I don’t think anyone got a 16 GB model and for a long time, I’m pretty sure they didn’t even sell them.

      Let’s keep in mind that most people don’t have a secondary phone that they can use for two months while they’re exchanging emails with OnePlus support. Remember, this isn’t about OnePlus. This is about what happens if all of the other OEMs on the American market started acting like OnePlus does, selling phones on the cheap and cutting out the warranty and customer service. I literally have at least 15 smart phones in my desk drawer. 99% of the population does not.

      Like I said, I’ve seen this strategy quite a bit from Chinese OEMs, because it’s a genius tactic, a great phone for cheap and cutting out the stuff that consumers can’t see at first glance. Personally, I don’t want the smart phone market to be like that.

  • Ruben Borrega

    Well i see your point, and I agree with somethings you’ve said. I agree that the costumer support isn’t the best, but the company is a startup and you can’t judge the support for one bad assistance. You’d need more data to make a conclusion about that. It’s like eating an apple and it wasn’t fresh and therefore all apples suck…

    I also agree that good specs don’t make a good phone, the iPhone has a crappy camera and has the best image processing software, they don’t need a good camera to make a great photo like samsungs, but i disagree when you call “stupid” to the people that see specs as the main thing about a phone. The OnePlus One was rocking CM, and they replaced it to Stock which is as good or better depending on the opinion, and again it’s a startup and they lack man power.

    Getting to the point, i think that the day that every phone company starts to concern about making good tech instead of money, like the ambicious NeverSettle you’ll have to retract some words you just said. Give them time and collect more data to make these kind of conclusions

    Good article 😉

    • Good feedback. Keep in mind that I am certainly not basing my opinion of their customer service on one experience alone or even my own. First, let me tell you my own. When I got it, multitouch didn’t work. I filled out my RMA and they got back to me two weeks later and they told me to wait for an update that would come a month later. I ended up fixing it myself. Not a big deal, but also an example of poor customer service. The second time, my SIM slot just stopped working. Apparently, that’s not covered under the warranty, so they wanted $177.50, half the price of the phone, to fix the SIM slot. That’s unacceptable. The third time, I realized my camera was defective. They responded to my RMA. They sent me all different versions of CM to try, although I repeatedly told them I had this problem since I got it. They asked me to provide pictures of the phone before all that. They again asked me to provide pictures after all that. They asked me to provide a video of me taking a picture. And do you know how it concluded? They just started ignoring me. Finally, I wrote a blog post about how terrible their customer service is and they replaced my phone. Before you say, “they’re a startup. You can’t blame them!” This was from April to May, well after they started selling the hottest phone of 2014.

      I spend a lot of time in the OnePlus forums. I once created a forum thread asking if anyone had ever had a positive experience with OnePlus customer service. A couple people had some simple problems solved but the vast majority of people that have experienced OnePlus customer service have an intense hatred of it.

      Also, I wouldn’t be so hard on them if I hadn’t seen this strategy from Chinese companies before. You make a mediocre phone with awesome specs, you sell it for cheap, and you subsidize that cost by not replacing defective units, cutting back on support staff, and marketing had a lot to do with it as well.

      It worries me that what happened to the smart phone market in China might happen here. It’s not entirely far fetched. Look at everyone cheering on OnePlus for using the Snapdragon 810, despite the well known overheating issues. When they announced it, everyone asked why they didn’t use the 820, since people want to rush the OEMs to rush Qualcomm to rush an immature processor to market, again.

  • I think maybe they just treated you like that because you’re an asshole. They have been nothing but great to me and the few people I know lucky enough to have one.

    • Obviously you didn’t read the transcript of my RMA. Interesting that you and the few people you know are the only people that have had a good experience with OnePlus customer service. It’s also interesting that you called me an asshole when you were completely unprovoked, which pretty much makes you the asshole.

  • kabilan

    “intelligent consumer will avoid oneplus one and stupid will buy oneplus one”.. for this, that intelligent will have to be convinced to buy a phone that is 3x times expensive.. which will be obsoleted by not getting OS updated in 2 years time… How intelligent are they !!!

    You call the oneplus one owners stupid!!
    Really !!! you think, the readers will buy your story !!!
    Good luck with that..

    such a baseless article.. waste of time to read and comment..

    • Yet you commented anyway. You even took the time to misquote me.

  • DomYteNique

    OK imagine you create a startup, then you have toi create customer service.
    But you have to many clients and your production is son cheap you canton really upgrade your customer service. What do you do?

    Next you say we are idiots cause all we look are the specs. False. Oneplus one is bought from je majority of tech fan and they are not like apple fans who buy a phone only from the OS, they look video, commentairies and all that stuff.

    But wait, all the lamda user who know nothing cause they dont have time because they work a lot, do you mean they are idiots by looking only the specs?

    For the end, i have an opo and in contradiction of all my phones (iPhone 5, wiko dual sim, nexus 5) this is the n’est phone.
    And if you have a probleme just contact PayPal…

  • Ben ott

    Your argument doesn’t work. Only a small percentage of people really care about specs, benchmarks, etc. Most people will buy a phone from a company they know makes decent phones and has support. You act like the current smartphone model is in danger, and its not. Oneplus serves a small niche of smartphone user who care about the things the one did well (easily rootable, etc). It’s not going to influence the way most people buy phones, because most people just don’t care.

    “All we can do is make sure we’re smart consumers.” Most of the people who bought a OPO were smart consumers. It did what they wanted it to do for a cheaper price. If that’s not being a smart consumer, I don’t know what is.

    This piece just sounds like an apple fanboy bashing Oneplus. It’s not a good image (like your photo) and makes you come off like a dumb asshole.

    • If you’re right, I’m more than happy to be wrong. I even said it at the end that I was being a bit conspiratorial; however, it did happen in China. I see no reason it wouldn’t happen here.

  • aravind

    Some body has bad experience even it’s a Samsung or so and so, when they are trying to replace their phone and it was you with oneplus. That’s it. It doesn’t mean they didn’t replace any of faulty one plus phone and you can’t blame because it happens one in 100’s. Its probability. Nobody is 100% perfect. You have rights to ditch them for what happened to you but you can’t blame everything they have created just for this and moreover it’s not like if you pay more then you get more quality customer service. This is the wrong mentality and this what exactly what Samsung and companies as such wants us have.

    Everybody knows why price of the branded phones were more. It’s plainly due to marketing. If you buy a Samsung phone you are paying apprx-20% of the amount for its marketing. But oneplus doesn’t do that. They deal with online marketing which is the future.

    One thing to remember if you build a thing which is good (not just specs but design and durability and so on) people will definitely will buy. Up’s and down’s may be there. You paid for something it doesn’t mean you get 100% quality products. Nobody can achieve 100% quality. It’s something to negotiate. Please update the post or remove it.

  • Bob

    I would not fear OEMs all becoming the same. I think the real power here is choice. You may choose to not pay extra for things like customer service options or a physical store and it is all about what you are willing to pay for and what trade offs you are willing to accept for a lower price. If it is worth it to you, go for it. If it is not, then pay the extra for the service that satisfies YOUR needs.
    You can not say that the whole of the US will be like this. That’s like saying Restaurants will cease to exist because of McDonalds. Or Mercedes because of Suzuki. They will not try to imitate them, and they don’t need to. They represent different things and appeal to different customers. More options = more choice. And more choice is more often than not a good thing for the customers.